Written By: Alex Shaw
I’ve been running over Episode #128 of Digital Cowboys in my head all evening. In that show we talked with James Portnow about what we should re-brand the term game with. Today I watched the new Daniel Floyd video on Video Games and Facing Controversy (Which is excellent as usual), made in conjunction with Portnow, discussing how our industry needs to stop quailing in the face of criticism when we attempt anything controversial even in the pursuit of artistic merit. He stated that we need to drop the term game in the same way as comic books became graphic novels in the 80’s and gained respect with work like Watchmen and Maus.
But as we said in the show, all the new and suggested terms seem unwieldy or pretentious, smacking of desperation to be taken seriously or suggesting some incredible new medium when it’s really just the same games we’ve been playing for years but which have evolved far beyond Pong and Space Invaders. Spielberg’s Interactive Entertainment or “I.E.” springs to mind. Interactive movie is no good either as we immediately think of Metal Gear Solid, sporadic moments of control amid hours of cut scenes and that specific kind of experience, which excludes games like Braid or Grand Theft Auto IV.
So I got to thinking, what is the one thing that games have that stands them apart from all other media? Reading is passive, as is watching films or listening to music, so it’s the interactivity that’s the difference. I’d suggest we get rid of the modifier and simply call them what they are… an Interactive.
Wait ten seconds before you respond. Think hard. Set your mind thirty years into the future to some Demolition Man future where everybody is relatively content and what we now know as games would seem as primitive as Defender does to you now. Those people, when stepping into the heads of characters created by Hideo Kojima Junior, won’t just be playing games. Whatever you conceive that they will be doing, it’s unarguable that it will be interactive in the way that film, books and music will still not be, unless of course they are cross-branched into Interactives with the evolutions of Heavy Rain and Rock Band. It’s a word in common use today, but used in a new context, it’s one that describes in just four syllables exactly what you’re doing, the variations being entirely thematic.
Now in the real future of 2038, that word is unlikely to be the name for what we now call games, but my point is that it could be. I believe we do need re-branding because one of our biggest barriers to evolution of the medium is an inability to change general public perception of the term game. It is kind of like trying to give yourself a nickname in school, I grant you, but if we don’t think about it and discuss the possibilities then we’ll be living in the pixelated shadow of Pac-Man forever.